What is breast problems?

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Breast problems: Overview

Breast lumps or changes are a common health worry. You may notice lumps and other breast changes throughout your life. This may include changes that occur with menstrual periods, pregnancy, and aging. Most breast lumps and breast changes are normal.

Noncancerous breast changes

Common, noncancerous (benign) breast changes include:

  • Sacs filled with fluids (cysts).
  • Generalized breast lumpiness.
  • Painless, movable, and firm round lumps (fibroadenomas).
  • Damaged fatty tissue (fat necrosis).
  • Growths inside the ducts (intraductal papillomas).
  • Enlargement of lymph nodes in the breast.
  • Breast pain (mastalgia).
  • Breast infections (mastitis) or abscesses.
  • Inflamed blood vessels (thrombophlebitis).

If you have breast implants, there could be changes in the implant over time. Normal activity or an injury to the breast can damage the implant and cause it to leak, deflate, or rupture. The implant may harden, develop ripples, shift position, or change shape. If any of these changes occur, the implant may need to be removed and replaced.

Breast changes that need follow-up

Many people with breast pain or breast lumps worry about breast cancer.

Any breast changes that you see or feel can be checked by your doctor during a clinical breast exam or with an ultrasound or a mammogram.

Early breast cancer is often seen on a mammogram before there are any symptoms. The most common symptom of breast cancer is a painless lump. But sometimes painful lumps are cancerous. Other symptoms of breast cancer include:

  • Unusual thick areas.
  • A change in the skin of your breasts or nipples, such as dimpling or puckering.
  • Redness or a change in the skin's usual color.
  • Discharge from your nipples if you aren't breastfeeding
  • An unusual increase in the size of one breast.
  • One breast unusually lower than the other.
  • Any breast problem that lasts more than 2 weeks.

Breast changes in puberty

Breast development is the first sign of female puberty. In most cases, breasts begin as small, tender bumps under one or both nipples that will get bigger over the next few years. It's not unusual for one breast to be larger than the other or for one side to develop before the other. You may worry that a lump under the nipple isn't normal or that it's a sign of a serious medical problem when it's really a part of normal breast development.

During the rapid hormone changes of puberty, it's common for male breasts to develop extra breast tissue. This is called gynecomastia. The extra breast tissue usually goes away without treatment within a year or two. It can feel uncomfortable. But if it causes pain or worry, talk with your doctor. There are treatments that can help.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.